California lawmakers vote to push back Diablo Canyon closure to 2030


California lawmakers have passed a bill calling to extend the operating life of Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant by five years, pushing back its closure from 2025 to 2030.

Introduced by Sen. Bill Dodd (D-Napa) and co-authored by Central Coast Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham, a Republican, Senate Bill 864 calls for the state of California to lend PG&E up to $1.4 billion to facilitate the extension of Diablo Canyon’s operating period. The bill also allocates $1 billion toward the development of renewable energy sources. 

SB 864 passed the Senate on Wednesday by a vote of 31 to 1.The bill passed the Assembly early Thursday morning on a 69 to 3 vote.

Diablo Canyon had been set to be decommissioned in 2025, after 40 years in operation. The nuclear plant provides nearly 10 percent of California’s electric power.

Late last year, Assemblyman Cunningham and Democratic SLO County Supervisor Dawn Ortiz-Legg called for officials not to rush the closure of Diablo Canyon. Officials should reconsider whether the nuclear power plant remains open at least 10 years past its scheduled decommissioning in 2025, Cunningham and Ortiz-Legg argued.

In February, 79 scientists sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom requesting the governor help delay closure of the plant. Shortly afterwards, the SLO County Board of Supervisors decided to send a letter to Newsom supporting a delay in the closure of Diablo Canyon.

The issue of extending the lifespan of the nuclear power plant has pitted those calling for California to address its energy deficiencies against activists expressing environmental and safety concerns. 

“Amid a scorching heatwave that is threatening blackouts, California’s lawmakers made the right choice in preserving California’s largest and most reliable clean energy source,” American Nuclear Society President Steven Arndt and Executive Director/CEO Craig Piercy said in a joint statement. 

Prior to the votes in the Senate and Assembly, Mothers for Peace called SB 864 a “monster bailout bill” and urged legislators to reject it. 

SB 864 would “allow shortcuts and sweeping exemptions from environmental reviews on seismic vulnerability and an unlawful cooling system. There is no storage capacity for high-level radioactive waste past 2025,” Mothers for Peace stated on its website.